This prequel to James S.A. Corey's Expanse series, starting with Leviathan Wakes, tells the story of Amos Burton, whom we first met aboard the Rocinan..Show More »te as the cheerful, casually violent engineer. As a novella providing "filler" material for the series, it's only interesting if you already like the series and want to know more about the characters.
Amos, when we are first introduced to him, turns out to be an evil and amoral crime lord in future Baltimore. While the reader might be thrown by this man who seems to bear little resemblance to the character we know, the "twist" ending is soon telegraphed as we're introduced to two characters under Amos's employ, Timmy and Eric, who are both caught up in the "churn" of one of the city's intermittent crack-downs on organized crime.
Since The Churn takes place entirely on the ground, it's really more of a crime thriller than a space opera, with the technology of space exploration rarely intruding into the lives of the people trying to survive the mean streets of Charm City. (I was disappointed that the audiobook narrator did not even attempt a "Bawl-mer" accent.) It's a decent story with action and violence, but only barely science fiction. Recommended for those who like The Wire and the Expanse series.
This was really modern science fiction, if not quite up there with the best-of-the-best, it was close. Unusually for hard science fiction, the charac..Show More »ters were compelling on their own, and had some nice depth to them. Also somewhat unusually, the characters were not scientists or space marines, but rather a mediocre detective and an intra-stellar freight hauler who get pulled deeper and deeper into the solar-system spanning plot of the book.
Though it is revealed in the very start of the story (so, no spoiler here!) that there is a first contact element in the book, for the vast majority of the novel, the action is much more human in nature - politics (both interplanetary and interoffice) and lots of action predominate.
The novel is not the deepest, and I am not entirely sure it adds to the genre or sheds vital insight into the human condition, but there is a lot of fun: murder mysteries, ship-to-ship combat, witty banter, and even old-school horror all make appearances. I'll certainly listen to the next, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it while you wait for more Peter Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, or Iain M. Banks novels to be added to Audible.
No sophmore slump as both plot and writing improve
Leviathan Wakes was a really solid example of modern hard SF space opera - Caliban's War is better. Corey (actually two authors, but they generally do..Show More » a good job of writing as a team) pays attention to the nice hard SF details (ship acceleration, radiation exposure, transit times between Jovian moons, etc.), but the love is clearly for the opera part of space opera. The main set of characters are a winning team that excel at narrow escapes and being at the right place at the right time, while engaging in both banter and emotional asides. And, even though the book takes time to develop the emotional states of the characters, plot elements zip along, tension is ratcheted ever upward as chapters quickly switch from viewpoint to viewpoint (and maybe author to author).
The new main characters are less blue collar than the first book, but also more well-written and unexpected - this is the first SF novel I have read with a foulmouthed 72 year old Indian grandmother, let alone one where that foulmouthed grandmother is genuinely intimidating. Similarly, the writing has improved, with less awkward passages and some genuinely moving descriptions. Reading is very solid, with accents being handled without too much exaggeration.
If you liked the first novel, this is a no-brainer. If you like Peter Hamilton-style space opera, this is also a clear winner. There is a lot of questions still to answer in the final book, but I am clearly along for the ride.
For a book series with a rumored TV adaptation, the 3rd book arrived on Audible with little fanfare. I awaited and searched for release dates for mont..Show More »hs only to randomly discover it on Audible last week, lacking proper cover art or any features on the website. (For any audible employees reading, a favorite authors system would be great). That said its finally here and it's wonderful to have.
There isn't much reason to justify The Expanse if you've already read the first two books (and if you're like me, you've read the short stories. It's a rich and strangely believable universe of humans and space, where the fab team that make up James S.A. Corey never loose sight of the humans of the story. Having made my attempts at other popular sci-fi series, The Expanse feels rich, detailed and populous, without the extremes hardware worship or the obsessively dry space battles. Its easily my favorite series (besting my previous favorite of Peter F Hamilton's neurotically complex commonwealth series)
This go around rotates the cast, Bobbie and the wonderfully foul-mouthed Chrisjen are absent with new characters, Anna, an immigrant priest with strongly defined moral compass as much as James Holden, and Bull, a tough-as-nails chief security officer on the Behemoth, as replacements. True to form, each adds to the colorful and blossoming cast of The Expanse, although neither quite trump the cast they're filling in for.
Without spoiling much, the ride is exciting although doesn't quite hit the sensational horror of the first novel or the intensity of the second. This isn't to say its lost itself but the arch pertaining to the proto-molecule is largely explained, and while clever, isn't as surprising as some of the other twists in the previous books, especially in the wonderfully unpredictable fashion of the first two. I will give credit where credit is due, as the mystery isn't compounded into irrelevance not is it drawn out to insignificance. Pulling off the big reveal is always difficult and the Expanse does it well. Any additions to the series will now face a new arch.
The book's end stops a few chapters too early but the best entertainment always leaves you wanting more.
I look forward to seeing what the next books will be like.
Because it's the first thing everyone is jumping on, I must admit that the narration did leave something to be desired. The narrator isn't horrible, h..Show More »e's just very different from the narrator from the previous 3 books, and his narration of some characters was a little odd. Having said that, I don't think that the narration made the book as horrible as others claim. The story itself was actually rather good. I still think that the first two books are the better ones in this series, but this one still had a good story. I do need to say that this book and the one before it had story lines that start feeling a little... defeatist? By that I mean that everything that can go wrong will go wrong and then some big disaster is going to come and make things worse... Also, the main character seems to be slightly unrealistic sometimes. A lot of the main characters in many of the Sci-Fi series seem to always have this unshakeable, and sometimes ridiculous, set of morals. For example; If someone who just murdered people was trying to murder a lot more people, and then tried to kill you so that he could murder even more people, do defend yourself with lethal force? Of course not! You do everything you can to not hurt him too badly and then risk your own life to bring him back for a fair trial (no doubt giving the bad guy a couple dozen more opportunities to attack or double-cross you again). Having picked out all of the negatives about the book, I thought the story was definitely worth the credit. It wasn't predictable, the story flowed well, and it kept me wanting to continue listening. That is what getting the book is all about. Also, the ending wasn't bad either. Although the author left the series in a good place to end it if he wanted to, there is still more story to tell and I would look forward to another book...
Another great piece of Sci-Fi with all ingredients to make it superb. I actually enjoyed this one more than the last one and can't wait for the next o..Show More »ne. While it is feeling a bit strange to hear your familiar characters with a different voice, I like the new narrator and grew accustomed to him. Havlok was a bit off (yes, Havlok is back), I thought. The accents were really great though. Looking forward to the next book.
After a disappointing prior book, Nemesis Games returns the Expanse series to fun form, though it increasingly seems like each book is written as an a..Show More »ction movie (perhaps no surprise, given the TV adaptation) rather than the hard-ish science fiction that characterized the first couple of novels. That's not necessarily a bad thing, I really enjoyed the story, but you should know what you are in for.
As an action adventure movie, this book is terrific: there are narrow escapes, thrilling fights, and giant set piece events scattered throughout. The characters we have grown to love all get to star in their own adventures, and get to be clever and resourceful in their own ways.The bad guys are mustache-twirllingly bad, the good guys articulate why they are good in stirring speeches, and everything feels remarkably satisfying. There were times where I couldn't stop listening to see how the next cliffhanger was resolved.
As a more realistic science fiction novel, there are a number of problems. First, the entire plot is laid out clearly and telegraphed repeatedly (the writers seem to have taken the advice about Chekhov's Gun to heart - almost every character or subplot introduced in the book plays an important point in the plot later). The science behind the fiction is also dropping a way a bit, as ever more implausible events happen to propel things forward. Strangely, however, the events are not implausible enough either: the giant galaxy-spanning mysterious aliens plotline takes a backseat to Solar System heroics, for better or worse. Also, though each character gets a lot of "screen time" and some revelations about their past, actual character development remains rather slight, and the musings on family and crew are nothing new to the series, nor are the psychopathic bad guys.
So, given all of these issues, why five stars? Because the book was incredibly fun, and I have finally accepted the series as the space fantasy action movie it clearly wants to be. If you are coming expecting hard science fiction and semi-realistic plots, it is likely to be three stars. I can't wait for the next book, however...